CSM and ESM – simplifying the service management acronym maze

CSM and ESM – simplifying the service management acronym maze

Ever since the early days of the IT Helpdesk and its expansion into other areas of the business, we have seen the industry come up with three or four-letter acronyms to sum up the new functions of service management applications.

This has been driven by two key factors –  first, the ever-changing needs of the business and a will to connect business departments, and second, of course, the solution vendors need to create new opportunities to sell their technology to a wider market. It is safe to say that, other than a few niche apps, tools that focus on the needs of the small IT team are no longer the priority.

CSM (Customer Service Management), ESM (Enterprise Service Management), and SIAM, are three acronyms that have come on the scene in recent years to help define ever-changing service industry requirements.

What is CSM?

Customer Service Management was a natural expansion of the Service Desk. It grew mainly from the solution vendor side as a way to unlock ITSM use in other departments, such as HR, and had some success in making larger organisations rethink the way they viewed and utilised IT. In fact, CSM quickly established wider usage of terminology such as business process automation and business tracking requirements. In time, these areas have increased in importance, rapidly rising up the requirements list for service management projects, and developing the need for inter-departmental and digital transformation expertise that goes beyond the traditional role of IT. This has led to Business Relationship Management (BRM) being a key function in larger organisations, where a specialist role or team is utilised for exactly such projects and ongoing service improvement.

So, what is ESM and why is it different?

Wikipedia definition:Enterprise service management (ESM) is a category of business management software—typically a suite of integrated applications that a service organization uses to capture, manage, save and analyze data critical to their service business performance.”[1]

ESM is, at first glance, similar to CSM but it goes further into the business-wide adoption of tools, processes, and employee and customer service. The key factor here is the growth of Digital Transformation and the increased understanding that true transformation needs to be holistic rather than piecemeal. ESM encourages the breaking down of departmental silos, forcing departments to share data and service approaches.

It can certainly be argued that, in reality, CSM offers the same things as ESM. They are the same products that have adapted and developed to meet the growing needs of businesses. As a concept, ESM does better describe how the function and consumption of service has changed over recent years. I would also argue that the word “enterprise” no longer describes only large organisations, but covers a much wider range of business sizes and types, really any company of a size that warrants inter-departmental collaboration. This last point is key, as it is what is driving technology development and, indeed, creating all these acronyms in the first place!

ESM is more about a shift in direction in the way businesses offer and deliver service, so a significant emphasis is placed on the ongoing adoption and maintenance of the chosen direction. As we already touched on in CSM, BRM expertise is often key to a successful ESM project and the wholesale adoption of business change it can deliver.

What does this mean for the customer?

Really, the way in which a product is labelled, be it ITSM, CSM, ESM or something else being dreamt up by the vendors right now, doesn’t matter. These are all iterations, and the evolution of Service Management in general. If the latest acronym describes in simple terms what it is that you are looking for, then it is a worthwhile method. From a customer perspective, the most important thing is to ensure that the solution being offered does what you need it to. CSM, for example, used to fall down as a concept because of the need to have multiple instances of a product. Sure, they used the same technology and could be ‘synced’ with each other, but this was often costly and involved. Modern tool sets offer much greater integration and, in some cases, the same solution and data instance regardless of department.

And then there’s SIAM

SIAM (Service Integration and Management) is a much talked about topic these days. It takes the concepts we have discussed and expands them, enabling collaboration between internal and external suppliers of service, and even their customers. Once again, this approach expands service capability and true collaboration. It also redefines the way in which organisations can treat service and opens up the opportunity to turn it into a revenue generator rather than a cost centre. As always with new Service Management acronyms, though, there are less than a handful of vendors in the market who offer true SIAM capability. Companies that are interested in such solutions should always do their homework, and not assume that the traditional ITSM vendors will offer them the SIAM capability they are looking for.


Rather than defining an ITSM project and its core components, think about the service delivered to all employees, customers and partners and how it could be revolutionised. Perhaps BRM should be considered as a starting point for senior management and project owners. Cutting through the acronym maze is the key to any successful project, particularly if your organisation is looking to digitally transform. Be more open-minded, don’t restrict your project to strictly defined requirements from the outset. If you do, you will likely be missing out on some of the emerging capabilities that offer true business transformation. Indeed, if you do restrict yourself, then you may well be missing the whole point of transformation!